The memories of young motherhood assailed me as I watched the news of the newest member of the Royal Family. My curiosity is piqued by how Will and Kate blend the old traditions while creating new ones; something I always try to incorporate in my own parenting style. The book, above, immediately came to mind.
Reminiscing I recalled the sleepless nights. When strangers encountered me, frazzled and struggling with young boys in the supermarket, they’d pat my arm and tell me, Enjoy it now. It goes by fast. Inwardly I’d cringe at this statement so often repeated. They aren’t the ones exhausted and lonely; at wits’ end. All I wanted to know was that there was an end to the constant feeding, burping, diapering. I longed for a full night’s rest. My local grocery store employees were my only connection to the outside world. To this very day I can walk into my local Albertsons; knowing most of them by name.
The book, above, landed in my lap in 2004. I had just recently moved to my current home with two busy sons. It was after reading this book, and conferring with my two childhood girlfriends, that made me go for my third son. I knew he would be a boy. I envisioned my sons in the seven stages, but more importantly, conjectured what type of mother I would become. I actively observed mothers in various stages of parenthood, my then 2 and 3 y/o running around me, mentally filing what I would and would not be. It is intrinsic in my personality to be mentally ready for what comes ahead . This usually obstructs my view of the here and now.
I find myself doing this again as I enter into the seventh stage. Am I the mom I thought I’d be? As my son works through his body image issues entering his teenage years, I, work through my body image issues in midlife. We’re not too different, my son and I. But the lasting message I took away from the above book, nine years ago, is the same one I work on each and every day. Enjoy each stage as you live it.
Last evening I sat amongst two of my favorite family members. I served as their flower girl, at age 5, and the visual, indelibly etched in my mind, from their wedding was of standing atop the Empire State Building, looking down, thinking people looked like ants. My mind sees this couple from my impressions as a child: young, active, adventurous. My cousin’s husband continues to bike with a local cycling club and frequently does 100 mile treks. He noted my sons loved the Milo that he grew up with, whilst camping, and handed them the above container. Although the days of Ovaltine and Tang are over; this throwback is being rapidly devoured by the spoonfuls; straight into my sons’ mouths.
But it is my my female cousin who has shaped my views; both in the workplace and in personal life. Sharp and blessed with a photographic memory, she is a force to be reckoned with in the medical field. She does not laud her resume; nor does she have to, as a nursing administrator of a large, local hospital. She is unassuming in her ways and I have always been impressed with her abilities to make others feel welcome while still being professional. Our sons golf near their home, each Monday, and so we were asked to drop by, afterwards and visit.
It is she and my late cousin, that have shaped my views of hospitality. While camping, amidst my younger cousins, it was she, aged over 60, who coordinated and executed meals for over fifteen people. It is in her blood. Others offered to assist her, and did, but she had the master plan; waiting to eat until everyone else had a plate. It is in this manner that I was raised, by my own mother, and so it rankled me that she would do this. I could not grab my own plate until this cousin sat with hers.
And so I sat, last evening, in her back patio feeding my family of five. They had conspired to thwart our plans of bringing take-out to their home. When I insisted we could bring something they refused and would not tell us where they were ordering from. It was not in our plan to sit and eat together; merely a visit. But I should have known better. This is not their way. As the pizza and salad ran out, she returned with desserts, as well as the can of Milo. It baffled the hubs. Did she leave and grab all this food? Again, I was reminded of my mom’s blue Danish tin can; always at the ready. She had worked a long work day and her hubs had just returned home from a grueling bike ride.
I am guilty, lately, of being inhospitable. I am not flexible when people drop-by because my Martha-like personality needs to be mentally prepared. Rare that my cupboards have food to feed more than my own family of five. I have been happy to stay encased within my four walls after our workday. I enjoy my own personal space with my family. I smiled at my cousin and her husband as they spoke of their travel plans; my mind already projecting twenty years to when I arrive at their stage of life. Their boys are grown, they are almost retired. The hubs caught my gaze and he grinned back.
Later the hubs and I sat reflecting on our time with my cousin and her husband. They were the epitome of hospitable hosts and I remembered the times when I was like them; opening my home and filling it with people. But in my current stage it is all I can do to enjoy my own family; the friendships hang in the balance wondering where I am. I hope they understand. This is one of my gaping flaws; the inability to currently, reciprocate. Though I can multi-task in many daily tasks, relationships require more time; more finesse. My easily distracted nature does not allow me to focus on more than what stands before me. In seeking quality in relationships, the quantity remains low. Those that, truly, know me are forgiving of my nature. I hope.
Thus, hospitality seems to keep making its rounds in my head.
Hospitality: noun. 1. Cordial and generous reception of or disposition toward guests. 2. An instance of cordial and generous treatment of guests. The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.
Interestingly enough, the word derives from Latin; the word hospital at its base. I will always associate this word with my cousin, the hospital administrator. As a nurse she constantly cares for others. It is her giving and unassuming nature that I need to absorb. I need to learn to open my life, generously; to be in the present moment. Friends won’t hang around, forever, waiting for me to find time; just as my kids won’t distract me forever. I am already entering my seventh stage.